County Youth Attend Leadership Training

Thursday, December 17, 2015
Clay County 4-H Youth Leadership Team members with Rep. Joe Jett at the State Capitol.(courtesy photo)

Screams were ringing out from the tree tops as young people were maneuvering from tree-to-tree using ropes to get to get from one challenge to the next. Military training? No, just the Clay County Youth Leadership Citizenship Team was taking part in the 4-H ExCEL program at the CA Vines Arkansas 4-H Center in Ferndale, just west of Little Rock.

On Dec. 4 and 5, a total of 18 youth from Rector, Corning and Piggott high schools participated in a two-day leadership conference trip. They toured the State Capitol, led by State Rep. Joe Jett of Success; toured Heifer International's headquarters and visited the Little Rock River Market. The highlight of the trip was the time spent at the Arkansas 4-H Center developing more trust, communication and friendships with others in the group. The ExCEL low ropes and high ropes course proved to be challenging to many of the students.

Addressing the need for leaders

According to local leaders, community organizations are experiencing both declines in memberships and funds to operate. With few members, there are fewer people willing and able to step into leadership roles. Many will not step into leadership roles without some prior experience or training.

In response to the need of young adult leaders, Clay County 4-H program obtained a grant through the East Arkansas Planning and Development District facilitated by Rep. Jett to kick off a youth leadership program for 11th grade students in Rector, Corning and Piggott. This program's goal is to teach leadership skills to students who wish to improve their lives through leadership training.

Twenty youth have been involved in monthly sessions focusing on communication and teamwork; leadership development; personal development, managing money and self-management. Youth have also planned and conducted service projects in their schools and/or communities. The "hands-on" program prepares the students to step into leadership roles and take action in their communities. Plus, this program looks great on college scholarship applications.

While the results of this work won't be fully realized until the youth have moved on into adulthood, there are immediate results being seen as students take on leadership roles in their communities. Corning Youth Leadership Team conducted a fundraiser at the annual Harvest Fest to benefit the local Humane Society. Rector Youth Leadership Team is planning a Career Fair in the Spring, and Piggott Youth Leadership Team chose Recycling as their school project.

As these students move into the adult world, they will be equipped with the skills that they need to give back to the communities that have given to them. Applications for Clay County Youth Leadership Citizenship Team for the 2016-2017 school year will be taken in the summer 2016.

Those wanting additional information about this program may contact the County Extension Office in Piggott at 870-598-2246 or email djbaker@uaex.edu

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